LeBron James is right. So is Dwyane Wade. The last two-minute reports by the NBA, while a good faith effort at more transparency by under Commissioner Adam Silver, don't make a lot of sense. They only serve to heighten the bad taste of blown calls and unless they produce radical change in how games are officiated late, so what?
Today, the league concluded that in Game 7 of Indiana Pacers vs. the Toronto Raptors, DeMar DeRozan got away with a shove in the lower back of Ian Mahinmi who was lobbed a pass in the final 16.6 seconds by Paul George. Instead of a basket or two free throws to trim the deficit to one point, DeRozan collected the ball and was awarded two foul shots himself. The Pacers could've trimmed the deficit to 87-86.
What makes the no-call even harder to fathom was they were the only two people under the basket. It wasn't a crowded house that made the infraction difficult to see. And consider with 3:51 left, George was correctly called for extending his arm to clear out DeRozan on a drive for a layup on a fast break.
NBA officials don’t do themselves any favors when they opt to “swallow the whistle” in the last few minutes of the games to supposedly let the players decide the outcome. And it begs the question, "What about the prior 46 minutes?" Those calls matter and impact outcomes, too, such as on a fifth foul that sends the hot hand to the bench.
How can the DeRozan's foul be overlooked when the Wizards lost 100-99 to the Pacers when George was said to be fouled with three seconds left -- the NBA determined in it's final two-minute report that it was a correct call -- on contact that was minimal by comparison? George made both foul shots to end that March 5 game for the victory that proved to be a turning point in the Wizards' season as they failed to get over .500. Wade was struck on his final shot attempt in Game 5 of the Miami Heat's playoff loss to the Charlotte Hornets. The NBA's report concluded it was a correct no-call.
What's the difference? Both were 50-50 calls. In one, the officals opted to blow the whistle in favor of a superstar player (George). In the other, the officals opted to not blow the whistle in favor of a superstar player (Wade). The "superstar" call narrative doesn't apply and is generally overblown because late in games, superstars -- not role players -- will have the ball therefore they will get more calls.
The issue is the inconsisent application of the rules late in games as if it's a special circumstance such as no blood therefore no foul.
The officiating reports on games in which the margin is five points or less at exactly the 2:00 mark are made public. That includes the entire five minutes of any overtime periods, too. That Silver's administration is open to sharing that is commendable.
The attitudes of Wade and James, however, are pretty consistent among players and coaches around the league. They all want to know, as then-Wizards coach Randy Wittman said when asked about 14 missed/incorrect calls at the end of a double OT loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, “What are you going to do about it?”
That "you" is a challenge to the NBA. If the league wants to inspire confidence in the officiating it should release the entire game reports and give explanations that incorporate logic. For instance, if touch fouls are being called all game based on that particular crew assigned to it, those same fouls have to be called late. Otherwise, how can players adjust to the officials?
All officials aren't made the same and aren't going to call every situation the same. But what they can do is pick a side of the fence and stay there. The old-school attitude to “let players decide the game” late is asking for trouble in today's media landscape where everything is easy to dissect and reveal the contradictions.
Just call the game the same for 48 minutes. Maybe Mahinmi misses both foul shots and no one is talking about this the morning after. Make the entire reports official or not at all. And as Wittman correctly pointed out, explain what is being done to correct those problem areas to make the quality of the game better.
If the latter doesn't happen, then James is right. It's all "pointless."